Does Inquisition Belong to Religious History?

To the Catholic Andreas Zaupser, writing in the late eighteenth century, the “Hag Inquisition” was the “plague of reason and religion both,” “murderess of the mind,” a “black” and “bloody” witch devilishly opposed to “Toleration, child of God.” [1] Who today would disagree with him? Almost uniquely for an institution birthed in the Middle Ages, heresy inquisitions have cast a dark shadow on our own period, reaching even popular imagination and serving as versatile shorthand for repression and control. [2] Few who do not specialize in medieval history may know the details: inquisitio was an ecclesiastical-legal strategy developed in the twelfth century with origins in Roman civil law, in which a supervisory authority both investigated and judged a suspected malefactor whose own bad reputation (mala fama) had acted as “accuser.” [3] Adopted by the church as one of several responses to heretical movements that emerged in the high Middle Ages, heresy inquisitions authorized bishops, or other papally delegated clerics, to seek out supposed religious deviants and their supporters and were most common in southern France and northern Italy. [4] Yet most are likely aware that heresy inquisitions involved the pursuit, arrest, interrogation, possible torture, and punishment (most notoriously, with the death penalty) of those who persistently, after attempts at correction, refused to “believe as the Roman church teaches and preaches.” And many may concur that this effort constituted a “scandal,” a “centuries-old blemish” on that church. Inquisition stands as a bold offense not only to modern thinking on toleration, diversity, and individualism but also, to some, to a Christian faith foundationally and inherently irenic, forgiving, and uncoercive. [5]

This image took root in the Reformation, as Protestants—denying Catholicism’s ecclesiastical and theological authority and appealing to heretical groups as antecedent caretakers of the gospel—cited inquisitorial repression as proof of the Roman church’s spiritual bankruptcy, even while possessing their own methods of ensuring religious uniformity. [6] But the persistence and span in our own period of inquisition’s maculated, and even “unchristian,” reputation are especially remarkable for their provenance in modern Roman Catholicism and in the historiography of the Middle Ages. Andreas Zaupser was an anomaly. The Catholic Church’s recent frank apologies for inquisition—its blunt assertion that the office “sull[ied] … the face of the church”—have reversed centuries of defensiveness that likewise sprang from sixteenth-century, interconfessional polemic. They have also detached medieval inquisitions from the religious moorings constructed carefully throughout the premodern period. This self-reflection, the admission of “errors,” approximates, ironically, a venerable Protestant charge that inquisitors were ignorant of the “true” Christian message. [7] It gestures, then, toward the very dynamic that underlay inquisitions, as well as reactions to them, in the Middle Ages: the elusiveness of truth, its fluid congress with error, and the instability of religion itself.

Yet the endurance of inquisition’s “irreligious” reputation in historiography indicates that this matter does not merely affect scholars of medieval Europe or persons with confessional loyalties. That dynamic of instability raises for all historians, regardless of specialization or background, a problem of historical construction. For inquisition’s claimed and controversial juxtaposition of repression and piety, and interpretations of it, ask us broader questions: What is “religious”? How do we align our definitions with those of the persons we study? Where do we draw the disciplinary boundaries of “religious history”? Historians have been traditionally reluctant to consider inquisition—this persecution of suspected religious deviants through methods that included violence—as a project of belief. Many premises, born from a variety of sympathies and perspectives, were long responsible: inquisitors were rank hypocrites, if not theologically mistaken (the Protestant charge); inquisitors were fastidiously uninvolved in the nastiest work of execution (a defensive Catholic argument); a “cruel” Middle Ages was simply, pervasively, bloodthirsty. [8] All of the above are equally unsupportable. Nevertheless, they collaborated in continuing in historiography, however inadvertently, the legacy of early modern polemics as well as of Enlightenment critiques of inquisition. [9] And this reluctance to link persecution and belief is instructive, as that continuity betrayed historians’ assumptions about the content and character of “religion.” Inquisition has long appeared not only “irreligious” but also, therefore, beyond the history of religion.

That scholarly disassociation of medieval heresy inquisitions from religious belief has persisted. A shift in historiographical focus in the 1970s to those who appeared before inquisitors, in order to spend the wealth of details about belief and practice found in trial transcripts, is one explanation. [10] But even when the focus of inquiry is inquisition itself, scholars have often dug chasms between this work of “outright intellectual terrorism” and sincere religious conviction. [11] Such a chasm has resulted most recently from a different interest, as historians have placed religious violence and the repression of religious minorities under the rubrics of power, authority, society, and politics. Reflected here is the influence of Michel Foucault and more broadly what Paul Freedman and Gabrielle Spiegel have called the development, within a newly demodernizing and defamiliarizing historiography of the Middle Ages, of a “dark, persecutory vision of medieval society.” [12] Freedman and Spiegel alluded here to R. I. Moore, whose explosive The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950–1250 famously asked why the persecution of heretics, Jews, and others increased dramatically in the High Middle Ages. Moore posited that a clerical, bureaucratic elite, newly prominent in institutions of increasingly centralized government, sought mechanisms to protect and to enhance its power and authority, collaborating with growing concerns over social control. To Moore, “persecution began as a weapon in the competition for political influence, and was turned by its victors into an instrument for consolidating their power over society at large.” Subsequent work has complemented Moore by attempting to show further how social-psychological factors such as “anxieties,” “fears,” and “uncertainty” over outsiders, the disobedient, and the libertine led ecclesiastical and secular authorities to adopt repression. [13] This “dark vision” is not uncontested. Some historians have sought to revise Moore quantitatively, marshaling examples of “tolerance” in medieval literature or legislation that are intended to counter the better-known incidents of violence or polemic generated against religious minorities. [14] Others have differently nuanced a monolithic, structural vision of “persecution” by noting how violence and discourses of repression had dynamic malleability, protean characters, and local, immediate manipulations that permitted various roles. [15] Nevertheless, this depiction of medieval institutions as chiefly interested in normalization and repression has dominated and perdured.

Unsurprisingly, especially given its long “irreligious” pedigree, inquisition fits neatly into this persecutory model. While inquisition was not a focus of Moore’s book, he considered charges of heresy as an important component of the new persecuting mentality’s consolidation of power; persecution led to “heresy” and not the reverse. [16] More specifically, scholars have placed inquisition within a stable teleology and genealogy of power, characterizing it as a tool of social and political discipline and as a parallel to (and/or precursor of) secret police in modern totalitarian states. [17] Following Foucault’s argument that power is complexly dialogic rather than a unidirectional imposition, James Given has sketched the power relations of inquisitions’ frequent failure and the resistance it inspired, while using the office as a glimpse into methods of political authority, governance, and control. Similarly, John Arnold, attempting to negotiate historians’ “ethical,” non-inquisitorial relation to trial depositions, focuses on the inquisitorial discourse of power, both fashioned and reflected in the transcripts, that gradually transformed individuals into “confessing subjects.” Carol Lansing’s Power and Purity: Cathar Heresy in Medieval Italy, while eliciting shades of religious belief among the laity that were neither strictly “Cathar” nor “Catholic,” located debates over heresy as a constituent part of social, political, and gender-role shifts that precipitated “the establishment of a political and institutional order.” [18]

Medieval persecution, and the inquisitions that helped to comprise it, have been credited, then, to social strain, factional jealousy, fear of community “infection,” doubt, and struggles over political power. Yet the present, dominant approach to inquisition in terms of the starkest, most earthly political and social power still lacks a crucial dimension: the religious world within which medieval inquisitions took place and the religious mentality that overwhelmingly informed their theory and practice. [19] And other recent studies that do not share this focus on the political and social dynamics of inquisition are nevertheless, for divergent reasons, uninterested in exploring the religious foundations of persecution. [20] Recent scholarship, while indeed considering inquisition within the history of the church as an institution of (restrictively defined) power and control, has been less interested in grounding it in religious belief, or within a broader, more complex, worldview mapped by faith. Current scholarly voices have echoed diversely that perdurant premise: a persecuting inquisition is not well reconciled with sincere religious belief.

Several factors may explain these historiographical echoes in our own time of inquisition’s distance from faith. Moore quickly dispatched religion as a motivating force in persecution, and his argument that heretics, Jews, and lepers were elided into a single imagined class, for the common end of political and social power, indicates his disbelief that religious conviction distinguished or read uniquely each persecuted group and its treatment. He apparently presumed that such an appeal to faith has implied, ahistorically, the necessity and normality of persecution, which his interest in historicizing its origins specifically resists. [21] And medieval inquisitions were undeniably repressive. Inquisitors’ imposition of diverse kinds of force—including the plainest violence—on bodies, communities, behavior, and thought is inarguable. The segregation of inquisition and belief has resulted perhaps from the presumption that sincere belief cannot coexist with (let alone produce) such repression. In the dark light diffused by the dominant historiographical vision of a “persecuting society,” any religious rhetoric present in our sources may seem cheap, strategic veneer to be polished away in order to discover the “real” rationales for repression and violence. Even if the invocation of such themes is not credited to knowing hypocrisy, it may nevertheless strike us as resulting ultimately, and unreasonably, from social and political panic.

But would inquisition’s practitioners and advocates define similarly the “society” within which scholars have recently located the office’s interests and motives? Another explanation for these echoes may be the difficulty of contextualizing others’ religious visions—to acknowledge and to understand how, in different contexts and to different persons, our darkness could look more like light. Yet scholars of the Middle Ages have surely learned in past decades that “medieval religion” can encompass more than their predecessors believed. An irony of this strong focus on the social and political dynamics of inquisition, at the expense of the religious, is that it is contemporary with historians’ expansion of what constitutes “medieval religion.” Scholars such as Caroline Walker Bynum have helped the field to evolve from an institutional history of the church to a more inclusive, and more generously imagined, history of religious practice and belief. [22] Can we, or should we, emulate that inclusiveness, shed any skepticism, and restore to inquisition its religious dimension? Can we place “the inquisitorial nightmare” within the history not just of politics, government, society, and institutions but also of religious practice and belief? Can we retreat from this emphasis on social and political power and ask also how churchmen who supported inquisition—the reintegration of supposedly contrite religious deviants and ejection of obstreperous ones—saw power, in all its guises, as unavoidably touched by the divine? [23] 8
Appeals to a religious mentality do not necessarily imply historical stability: one can argue for a sincere, but flexible, religious conviction that in the later Middle Ages, for historically definite reasons, was reconceptualized not only to permit but even to celebrate persecution. Churchmen’s articulation of a peculiar kind of “power” that exceeded all earthly boundaries indeed sought ambitious forms of control and was responsive to circumstance. But their reconsiderations of the content of faith, even in a manner that may presently appear “irreligious,” did not evacuate it. In various ways, religious conviction could build foundations for repression in particular circumstances, and violence could play diverse roles within an economy of belief.

In what follows, I would like to reconstruct the religious foundations of medieval persecution—occluded similarly by early modern polemic, recent apologies, and a historiography of power—through two groups with seemingly little in common: inquisitors and those who resisted investigations into supposed heresy. First, we will sketch broadly how inquisitors and their brethren from the Dominican Order, the religious order most closely associated in the Middle Ages with heresy inquisitions, themselves conceived of and presented this work. Second, we will consider in detail a protracted incident of violent opposition to inquisitions in southern France, glimpsing how those inquisitorial visions of pious persecution could manifest themselves among the laity. Finally, we will ask how these contextualized marriages of belief and violence raise provocative questions not only about the nature of medieval religion but also about how all historians of religious culture map their field. Andreas Zaupser, certainly, would describe as apologetics an investigation of how medieval inquisition, that “plague of reason and religion,” was profoundly linked to both. But a reconstruction of the bond between persecutio and religio in the Middle Ages unsettles, not confirms, our confidence in the stability of religion and also of history.

Medieval historians well know that Dominic Guzman founded his religious movement, confirmed as the Order of Preachers in 1216, as a response to heresy in southern France, seeking through an “apostolic life” of poverty and evangelism to return to the Catholic fold those who had embraced or sympathized with Catharism or Waldensianism. [24] The order’s distinctive tasks of preaching, teaching, and pastoral care would serve a twofold purpose to this end: tending souls neglected by orthodox clergy and hence hungry for spiritual food; and offering a model of piety, simplicity, and probity to impugn that presented by heretics. But after the church recognized that the formal end of the Albigensian Crusade in 1229 had not meant the end of heresy in Languedoc, Dominican inquisitors almost immediately began to be active there. How could those friars who assumed the duties of inquisition, and their Dominican brethren, understand this work as a harmonious part of the apostolate? In 1233, Pope Gregory IX, long a patron of the fledgling order and also an enthusiastic proponent of the new office of “inquisition of heretical depravity,” informed the prelates of France that he had appointed Dominican brothers to act as inquisitors in that realm. [25] Gregory compared his commission to Jesus Christ, “who chose both the twelve apostles and seventy-two others, and sent them before him to preach two by two,” evoking precisely the gospel model that spurred and animated the “apostolic life.” [26] This allusion was not merely rhetorical, but rather reflected what Gregory and most Dominicans perceived to be structural and conceptual affinities between heresy inquisitions and the order’s apostolate traditionally defined. [27]

Dominic’s own ministry saw him reconciling penitent heretics to the church with penances later used by his inquisitorial heirs, and handing impenitent ones to the secular arm for execution. [28] This indicates the complexity, from the movement’s origins, of what it meant to “save souls.” Dominicans themselves viewed inquisitorial duties in smooth continuity with Dominic’s work and as one kind of pastoral care, which was at the time of their foundation an increasingly assiduous investigation into the individual soul. This effort, begun with the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and its insistence on yearly confession for all Christians, likewise responded to heresy’s strength and the related weakness of the orthodox “care of souls.” [29] But inquisition and fellow ecclesiastical initiatives strove to do more than merely return to the pastoral status quo: rather, they formed a newly ambitious, single effort to extend to all Christians a kind of monastic discipline. This was a transportation beyond the cloister, to all the baptized, of the monastic community’s hallmarks: an awareness of constant observation, thorough examination (and, when necessary, denunciation) of oneself and others, and correction and taming through the body. Overall, this was a shaping and a subjection of the soul that strove not to force one to obey, but rather to cultivate the sincere wish to obey. [30] This spiritual discipline of the Christian faithful meant a double insistence upon the individual soul and on the transcendent community to which it belonged, with no possibilities for seclusion or emigration. [31] A supervisory God, unlike any human abbot, always knew what lurked in one’s heart. The intent of this pastoral strategy was inner desire, not mere outward conformity; a subjection in body and spirit to divine (and hence ecclesiastical) power that posited new territories for control.

Heresy both partly inspired that vision and also challenged it. Inquisitors approached heresy not simply as a social or political “crime” (although this word could indeed appear), but as an ultimately personalized peccatum or sin. As the Dominican Humbert of Romans said, heresy was in fact “the worst sin”: to Humbert and his brethren, heresy was not simply a violation committed and defined within the Roman church’s structure of earthly and divine order. Rather, it rejected that structure and proposed alternatives. [32] Yet churchmen insisted that heretics were mistaken in believing themselves outside that structure, able to stray from God and his church with impunity. Their repentance was both a salvific necessity and only possible through sacerdotal mediation; inquisitors were more powerful clerical investigators of a proportionally worse sin. As such, Dominicans did not segregate cleanly inquisitorial from pastoral spheres of action. Raymond of Peñafort, master general of the Dominican order from 1238 to 1240, composed an important and influential confessors’ manual, the Summa de penitentia (1225–1235). In this manual, designed to assist his brethren when “judg[ing] souls in the penitential forum,” Raymond included heresy as a pastoral problem all friars might confront. In addition, although not himself an inquisitor, Raymond composed an inquisitors’ manual circa 1242. [33] As they would with other sins (or even more so), inquisitors maintained that all degrees of perceived commitment to heresy demanded the reintegration of the individual soul into God’s community of faith through the standard penitential schema of contrition, confession, and works of satisfaction. [34] The sinner’s reconciliation necessitated first that she define her behavior as indeed a sin, and then that she truly wish to atone and to rejoin the church “with a good heart and genuine faith.” [35] Contrition should manifest itself in a confession that was more sacramental than juridical, a beginning of reconciliation rather than an end to investigation. To inquisitors, “confession” in the modern, legal sense (that is, admitting an action) was inefficacious; a confession without apparent contrition and an abjuration of heresy meant recalcitrance, and the consequent ejection from inquisition’s office of repentance. [36]

Inquisitors were well aware that a suspect’s confession might result simply from fear or evasion, and that it might consequently lack the “genuine faith” they sought. A willingness to perform penance supposedly helped to make manifest a confession’s genuinely pious foundations. The common “penances” assigned by inquisitors, in combinations of diverse onerousness designed for an individual’s exact degree of guilt, had precedents in regular sacramental penance; clerics also used them to reconcile heretics before the establishment of the inquisitorial office. For example, Raymond of Peñafort listed prayers, fasts, pilgrimage, hairshirts, and flogging—all common inquisitorial penances—as penances for sins generally in his confessors’ manual. Dominic had assigned to penitent heretics these tasks as well as the equally common wearing of crosses on clothing. [37] The most serious penances assigned by inquisitors, flogging and imprisonment, were an importation to laypeople of monastic practice and of its conviction that bodily suffering both atoned for past sins and trained the soul to shun future ones. This flogging of heretics was explicitly liturgical and penitential; parish priests were to perform the beatings during masses and processions, praying that God welcome again one who had turned from his church through sin. [38] This echoed practice in the venerable Benedictine, and more recent Dominican, orders. In addition to the Dominicans’ ritualized flogging at the nightly prayer office of compline, brothers who had committed particular infractions were publicly flogged with individual blows called disciplinae. [39] The inquisitorial penance of imprisonment similarly presumed that bodily pain and affliction especially remunerated God for offenses against him. Depending upon the degree of guilt, the putatively repentant heretic was sentenced either to more relaxed confinement or to a harsher form, where he or she was chained and fed with “the bread of grief and water of tribulation.” [40] In either case, prison was, to inquisitors, where the guilty performed “salutary penance … for those deeds committed,” and thus where “they may save their souls.” Like flogging, prison exchanged future for present suffering: if “to live in that place taste[s] to you of death,” then “the death that you suffer there [will] grant you eternal life.” [41] And as with flogging, the precedent and model for imprisoning penitent heretics was longstanding monastic tradition. Prison was not yet a secular penalty in Western Europe. The Dominicans themselves incarcerated wayward brothers guilty of grave sins (uncovered through confession, denunciation, or a process of inquisitio) in the prisons that local priors were obligated to build in their houses. [42]

Just as the Dominican inquisitor Bernard Gui (c. 1261–1331) adopted traditional pastoral imagery when referring to his heresy-hunting colleagues as “doctors of souls,” Raymond of Peñafort’s confessors’ manual encouraged every priest, every “spiritual doctor,” to be a “diligent inquisitor” in “interrogating” the sinner and ferreting out hidden details and intentions. [43] Pastorate and inquisition did not arise coincidentally in the thirteenth century, as practically and conceptually distinct responses to the single problem of solidifying the church’s boundaries in the wake of dissent. Both reflected a new insistence upon the close investigation of souls, the demand for contrition felt inside and manifested through oral confession, a divine vigilance that surpassed human vision, and the shaping of the soul through the body. [44] But because of that insistence upon the secret, inner level at which contrition and repentance should exist, the emphasis on genuine desire, the problem of discernment was crucial for inquisitions. Inquisitors sought to persuade the laity that even unpopular Roman clerics were God’s earthly delegates, with the power to bind and to loose; that, conversely, seemingly pious heretics were allied with the devil; and that the church inerrantly distinguished between true and false piety. An inquisition furnished several opportunities for persuasion, both communal and individual: the preaching that began and ended an individual inquisitio, interrogations, public sentences, and abjurations by former heretics. In his preaching manual, De eruditione predicatorum (c. 1266), the Dominican Humbert of Romans remarked that when inquisitorial sentences were imposed, “many … by a certain false piety” believed the church guilty of “excessive cruelty” toward heretics. It was thus “expedient to show in a public sermon” why they merited more strident and thorough treatment than did other sinners. [45] By requiring the careful articulation of this new disciplinary worldview, the very tension generated by inquisition was productive for it.

Most publicly controversial was the moment when, through recalcitrance (failure to confess with contrition and penance) or relapse (into a once-abjured heresy), a suspect refused inquisition’s offer of reintegration and was left to the “deserved punishment” of secular justice. By the end of the 1230s, this meant, in most of Western Europe, death. [46] Although execution was infrequent and technically a secular duty (and Fourth Lateran reiterated in 1215 that clerics were forbidden to shed blood), there is scant evidence that inquisitors distanced themselves literally or ideologically from it. Rather, they responded to this perceived necessity, to principled arguments from heretics, and to lay crowds’ objections to particular executions by avowing through various media that this new practice of executing heretics was not, in fact, a novelty. [47] Inquisitors and supporters “discovered” a biblical tradition that recounted, and thus ostensibly prescribed, the killing of those who contumaciously abandoned God and his designated earthly community. This killing, performed by righteous, zealous authorities instituted for this purpose, constituted divine justice and punishment. Both Old and New covenants mandated such death. [48]

This argument of God’s past killing was brought into the present and directly applied to contemporary heretics by collections of exempla (illustrative stories used to enliven sermons or to teach lessons in a more accessible manner) composed in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries by the Dominican inquisitor Étienne de Bourbon and by his fellow friars Humbert of Romans and Jean Gobi. Their collections included tales in which God, through miracle, endorsed executions and identified moderni heretici as the latest installments in his series of violent vengeance upon apostates. For example, Jean Gobi recounted a story in which a condemned heretic suffering execution by the stake in Toulouse was repeatedly saved by bursts of rainwater that doused the fire. When the crowd of spectators began to grumble that perhaps God was intervening to save a falsely convicted man, the inquisitor furnished a consecrated host and prayed that Christ “show [his] power over this member of the devil.” A demon appeared, admitted that he had been responsible for the saving water, and conceded that after this call for divine intervention, he was now impotent. The flames instantly rose up again, and “the heretic was burned.” [49]

In addition, these collections, by dwelling on the venerable concept of hell and the more recent, and increasingly frightening, site of purgatory, built a world of eternal, horrific consequences for adamantine sin. What was the burning of an impenitent heretic other than a pale parallel of, and immediate preface to, God’s own fierce and inescapable hellfire? The inquisitor Bernard Gui described the execution of two Dolcinite heretics with precisely this juxtaposition of earthly and divine punishment: “relinquished to secular judgment to be punished with death … they were handed over to the avenging flames, condemned to be burned up by the eternal fire.” [50] God’s otherworldly infliction (with merciless glee, according to Dominican preachers) of pain, torments, and misery—all exceeding in design and degree their equivalents here below, and all interminable—matched his eagerness that the wicked be slain on earth. Inquisitions and their violence were to be understood within these resultant spaces, and again, this re-vision was intended to reach laypeople through conversations, interrogations, and preaching. By the early fourteenth century, Dominicans had fashioned a seamless garment of earthly and divine justice and violence, in which execution, appearing to some as most “unchristian,” putatively reinforced inquisition’s claim to holiness.

We should not then appeal reductively to a medieval mentality that simply viewed pain and death with impassivity, or to a thoughtless importation of strictly secular justice into a strictly ecclesiastical framework. We cannot ignore the ways in which clerics conceptualized in religious terms those acts and that justice. [51] Those reconceptualizations were part of a broader vision—which Dominicans articulated, and tried to implement, through various activities—of a community in which all were subject to a God who held a boundless power to watch, to shape, and to punish. Medieval churchmen’s discourse of belief, with which inquisition was bound, understood and presented power and discipline in historically located, religious ways, and conceived peculiarly the shaping of souls and bodies. The monastic heritage and sense of disciplina, extended to the laity through confession and inquisition, posited a very different “society,” and a different soul, than that about which Foucault spoke in sketching the creation of a pervasive “carceral” world. This discourse insisted on its own panopticon designed for the total diffusion of power and the soul’s self-governance: an omniscient God who imposed far greater consequences for infractions. Inquisition did not then gain power through the tactical exclusion of claimed deviants from earthly society, but instead through an insistence on their total inclusion within God’s transcendent community. This may have been more terrifying to the medieval believer, as its jurisdiction was not merely social and political, bounded by our familiar lines of time and space, but rather endless and expansive. [52] For this world, in which heresy inquisitions were a site where divine justice, discipline, and violence crystallized here below, one temporized and spatialized point on a putatively eternal spectrum of God’s jurisdiction, a binary of intolerance/tolerance is insufficient. Inquisitors themselves proudly used language of “persecution” to describe what they saw as the salutary work of re-placing souls in God’s right order. [53] Rather than simply compare the weights of “good” and “bad” interaction between the Roman church and its supposed “others” in the later Middle Ages, [54] we should ask how and why the church asserted, through a variety of interlocked media that included inquisition, a new and inescapable authority over all souls and bodies.

This mentality emphatically did not defeat or exclude all contemporary judgments on inquisition, on ecclesiastical power, or even on the nature of the Dominican mission. Nor is this evocation of inquisition’s religious meaning incompatible with the social and political dynamics of interest to many historians. But it is clear that the segregation of “belief” and “persecution” in inquisition’s historiography and in popular image does not wholly reflect the spiritual geography of the Middle Ages. And these variant readings of persecution—the religious themes and language with which medieval churchmen surrounded inquisition; historians’ emphasis on secular politics and power—are more than merely an intellectual disagreement between medieval inquisitors and modern scholars. Rather, they point to a broader problem of historical practice, namely the potential distance between our subjects’ conceptions of what “religion” could accommodate and our own. As medieval inquisitors themselves were regularly reminded, “religion” is not always what one thinks it is, or should be. “Religion,” etymologically born from the Latin religare (“to bind” or “to tie”) and signifying in classical Rome a reverent bond to the gods manifested both inwardly and through external cult, has mutated from the religio of the Middle Ages, which primarily denoted the monastic life but also (particularly in cooperation with companion words like “law” and “sect”) gestured toward the broader sense of a binding system. [55] Jonathan Z. Smith has surveyed the rapidly and consistently revised conceptions of religion since the medieval period, as confessional diversity, exploration, and colonialism saw the complete supercession of faith over practice. [56] In modern thinking, religion, burst from any antique and medieval restraints, has become expansive and subjective. While Emile Durkheim argued that one should define religion “from reality itself” and proceeded confidently to do so, Smith has remarked that we can be confident only that scholarly attention constitutes and “creates” religion. [57]

And our delineations of “religion” necessarily govern our delineations of the field of religious history. Consequently, the history of religion has similarly altered in its constitution and in the topics falling under its purview. Although historians of religious life and practice have generally studied a process of “binding” between individuals or societies and the (diversely construed) divine, they have not uniformly defined the content and character of that bond. For example, as we see in medieval history, the once-dominant assumption that religious history meant the study of ecclesiastical institutions weakened as Americanists and Europeanists of various periods attended more closely to the role of belief as an agent in history. [58] We then see a double instability, as historians of religion are confronted by both the historical mutations of religio and the semantic vulnerabilities to which all taxonomic categories of historiography are susceptible. These twin instabilities of “religion” and of “religious history,” as in other analytical fields such as “society” and “gender,” then create space for the play of historians’ subjective assumptions. At all times the constructions of religion, and thence of its history, are reflective and indicative of the interests, premises, demographics, and even prejudices of their constructors. Because of religio’s consistently variable definitions, both in history and in historians’ conceptions, this process of construction risks disjunction between the “religion” of a period and the “religion” presumed by that period’s students. Historians of religion (with or without confessional allegiances) encounter not only this danger of mis-fit, but also more uniquely the difficulty of “‘understanding’ a time organized as a function of a standard of comprehension other than ours.” [59]

Both religion and its history are unstable and have changed in definition and character throughout their respective pasts. The very process of defining religion and its history thus opens gaps, implies exclusion. Medieval inquisitions, surely, have fallen into one gap between divergent constructions of religion. But even if we acknowledge that inquisitors could reconcile “belief” and “persecution” in their peculiar vision of souls subject to divine power, we have not learned enough about the religious dimensions of persecution in the later Middle Ages and thus have not fully confronted the larger problem and meanings of disjuncture among divergent conceptions of “religion.” We cannot ignore the souls and bodies that were the targets of this discipline: those Christians whose souls were examined with such diligent care, whose bodies became tools of atonement, and who were presented with exactly one schema of divine and earthly order, which was only rejected at one’s peril. For medieval heresy inquisitions saw violence inflicted upon inquisitors as well as by them. The resistance to which Humbert of Romans attested was manifested on occasion through violence—riot, sabotage, attacks, and murder—against inquisitors, their staffs, and even the religious communities to which inquisitors belonged. [60] Moreover, such violence was usually instigated by laypeople who professed little or no devotion to heresy. This violent resistance may seem easily explicable: an expression of political, social, or class tensions; hostility toward interlopers who divided communities with their blockades of questions; the plain desperation to halt cruelty, exploitation, and the imposition of religious uniformity. Certainly the historiographical premise has been that this relationship was thoroughly one of opposition, and it seems self-evident that people would chafe at such intrusive investigation into their faith, such punishment for divergence from religious norms, such power that was asserted by its holders to be ultimately holy.

But like inquisition, this violent resistance also took place within a distinct “society,” a spiritual geography we may not share. It was itself religious. [61] It was housed in inquisition’s structure of divine authority and punishment, vested in the same garb of justice, piety, and sin. Like that office, it originated within and responded particularly to (and perhaps in turn influenced) a contextualized “binding” to God, either disrupting or confirming not social, but rather divine, order. This resistance to inquisition, then, also opens a gap that helps to indicate further the very mutability of religion and belief by showing how religious worlds are made and remade, both by persons in the past as well as by their historians.

Violence against inquisition quickly followed its establishment in southern France, and the attacks upon inquisitors, their supporters, and their religious communities in the towns of Albi, Toulouse, and Narbonne in the 1230s all illustrate, among however much rage, that they were founded upon the reasoned conviction that the work was not only intrusive, but also unjust. [62] Later violence indicates that these events were not merely an instinctive response to the new office of inquisition nor the result of lingering hostility and tensions after the anti-Cathar Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229). It demonstrates also the greater clarity, refinement, and complexity of the religious logic of lay violence against inquisition, which could well result from the induration of the spiritual geography presented by inquisition since the 1230s, itself a specialized heir of Christianity’s autochthonic discourse of good, evil, sin, and repentance. Although instances of anti-inquisitorial violence surely interacted with local, disparate circumstances, connecting filaments weave imaginative texture that displays religious meaning. The fact that violence was inconsistent—inquisitions more often took place calmly without it—underscores that the issue here is not “violence against inquisition” per se. [63] It is exactly that inconsistency, the particular circumstances and judgments that spurred riots and attacks, that are fruitful for us.

Let us look in detail at one instance. The protracted tumult against inquisitions in Albi and Carcassonne that lasted from the mid-1280s to the early 1300s centered around charges of inquisitors’ rank greed, corruption of records, irresponsible torture, and conscious punishment of the innocent. An early sally occurred in 1284, when, fearful of the inquisitor Jean Galand and recent testimony inculpating several citizens, some prominent men in Carcassonne plotted to steal inquisitorial registers. [64] After this plan failed, a subsequent appeal to Rome and to the Dominican prior in Paris charged the inquisitor with diverging from the lawful, traditional procedure of the office and of his predecessors. Jean unfairly prosecuted “Catholic and religious persons” in a town that was faithful and orthodox in its piety, charity, liturgy, and in “expelling all heretical pravity.” The doleful result was that “justice completely perishes, and iniquity rules.” [65] After what were perceived to be similar outrages by the inquisitor Nicholas d’Abbeville, two citizens of Carcassonne involved in the register plot led demonstrations against inquisitions that began in 1295. The inquisitor Bernard Gui, who wrote of these events in his history of the Dominican communities in southern France, was the local prior as “the mad sickness of Carcassonne” raged “against the office of inquisition and the brothers,” whom the citizens shunned “as excommunicates” and “derided” with “words and sometimes wounds.” After Nicholas d’Abbeville excommunicated the bourg, the town’s consuls capitulated in 1299, and a formal reconciliation was prepared. [66]

However, Nicholas soon conducted a series of trials in collusion with the unpopular bishop of Albi, Bernard de Castanet, in which several leading citizens of that town were condemned. Heated opposition again arose in Carcassonne, and the Franciscan friar Bernard Délicieux assumed leadership of the anti-inquisitorial movement. [67] Around this time, Foulques de Saint-Georges, the Dominican prior of Albi serving as Nicholas d’Abbeville’s lieutenant, and Estève Auriol, a criminal judge in Carcassonne, were met with violence when they tried to cite at the Franciscan house in Carcassonne some persons to appear before the inquisitor. After Bernard Délicieux and fellow Franciscans asked the men why they “maliciously” deemed “good and Catholic people” to be heretics, a “great commotion” of people arrived “with arms.” Hemmed in by an angry crowd, and judging it preferable to attempt escape “than … be killed,” the fearful Foulques and Estève “quickly receded, and … a great multitude … followed … shouting and throwing rocks at them.” [68] In addition, Bernard Délicieux helped Albi’s citizens appeal directly in 1301 to King Philip IV. Philip’s subsequent restrictions on the bishop and the inquisitors, including a suspension of Foulques de Saint-Georges, did not prevent further violence. [69] Bernard Gui dolorously recounted the indignities that Albi’s citizens, “stirred up” by the prosecutions of those they maintained to be “innocent and blameless,” visited on inquisitors and bishop at the time of this appeal. Among other “vituperations,” “threats,” and acts, a crowd set upon the bishop and shouted for his death. Townspeople cursed and attacked local Dominicans, forcibly ejecting them from Albi’s churches in 1302. According to Bernard Gui, who saw such actions as “perfidy” and “dementia,” the brothers feared to go about the city.

On August 4, 1303, Bernard Délicieux preached a sermon in Carcassonne on the text “Jesus, seeing the city, wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known … ‘” (Luke 19:41), and announced that according to the reconciliation of 1299, all the citizens were admitted heretics. He fumed against those who had “sold out” the town to injustice, and told the congregation “we must proceed against [them] by seizing, killing, and destroying them and their entire root.” [70] A large crowd rioted and a mob stormed the inquisitorial prison, forcibly freeing persons they believed were incarcerated unjustly. Numerous people shouted “let the prison be destroyed!” and one bystander “feared” that unless the captives were freed, “the tumult of the people would not cease.” [71] Although the new inquisitor, Geoffroy d’Ablis, denied that the agreement named all townspeople as abjured heretics, more violence followed. [72] The Carcassonnais were so incensed that here, too, few Dominicans dared to go out. A mob attacked the order’s convent during a conventual mass; images on the church’s portico were defaced or destroyed; and men “threw rocks, breaking with them the stained glass and the windows.” One citizen had seen “many rocks upon the altar of a certain chapel [in the church],” and credited the destruction to persons who had heard Bernard’s repeated preaching against inquisitors and their Dominican brethren. [73] However, this anti-inquisitorial movement faltered with the accession of a Dominican pope, Benedict XI, and a related shift in Philip IV’s eagerness to curb inquisitorial and episcopal efforts against supposed heretics. After a failed plot to usurp the king’s authority in Carcassonne, the consequent hanging of fifteen consuls in 1305, and Bernard Délicieux’s imprisonment by the Franciscans, the extended uprising ended.

Should we agree with Bernard Gui that this violence was “dementia” and “madness”? In both communities there were persistent and vocal reports of injustice, crime, corruption, licentiousness, rapacity: in short, of unholy malversation, where inquisitors wielded the office wickedly to oppress the good and to satisfy various material lusts. [74] The several sermons preached by Bernard Délicieux “to stir up the people” fomented and disseminated the public’s charges—we might say mala fama—against inquisitors. Within this constant plaint sounded also the converse of inquisitorial wickedness, namely, the piety and orthodoxy of those punished. In one sermon, Bernard Délicieux bemoaned that “inquisitors conducted themselves falsely against many good and upright men and unjustly detained them;” they arrested not heretics, but those they knew to be “true Catholics.” Inquisitors, in fact, “decatholicized Catholics.” This neologism, to “decatholicize,” is crucial. [75] The scandal was not that inquisitors fulfilled their office by investigating and imposing penances upon those putatively deviating from orthodoxy. Rather, they inverted the language and structure of God’s order by branding good as evil, and, like heretics, masked with phantasmatic goodness their own “depravity” (as Bernard described it in a sermon, alluding however intentionally to the ubiquitous “inquisitor of heretical depravity”). [76]

Moreover, Bernard used some familiar imagery to present the metaphysical dimension of this conflict, in which inquisitorial abuses were not merely offenses by powerful men against vulnerable citizens, but ultimately bellicose strikes by the devil. In the riotous Carcassonne sermon, Bernard recounted an exemplum in which two butchers regularly pilfered rams grazing in a beautiful meadow, until the animals determined to use their horns to attack the marauders. Bernard helpfully glossed the text for the congregation: the meadow was Carcassonne, “green through the Roman Catholic faith;” the rams were its citizens. Finally, there were the “butchers, that is, inquisitors … ” [77] The same sermon exhorted the “good gardener” to weed out the “wicked grasses” from among the good, which closely echoed the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24–30). [78] More directly, one citizen of Carcassonne heard Bernard warning the congregation in another sermon that
“The time has come about which it is written that there would come certain people dressed in clothing in the likeness of sheep, having within the hearts of wolves, eating and devouring people.” [The witness added that because] of [these] words … the populace was stirred up, the witness believing that friar Bernard meant by these words, that is, by “devouring wolves,” inquisitors and those favoring the office of inquisition. [79]The layman Jean de Picquigny, who led the storming of the Carcassonne prison, echoed this imagery when he wrote to several town consuls about his excommunication for his role in the uprising. He reported he had been wickedly and “impiously” slandered by the Dominicans, “lying, perfidious, and iniquitous men, who under the garb of sheep hide on the inside the rapacity of wolves … not true Preachers but more truly prevaricators of divine law and of infallible truth.” [80]

Wheat and tares, sheep and wolves. Particularly since Pope Innocent III’s Vergentis in senium (1199), which defined heresy as treason against God, the parable of the wheat and the tares was often repeated in inquisitorial literature, interpreted and presented as divine approbation—and even as active charge—to eradicate from the church unwholesome elements that refused correction. [81] The image of wolves clothed as sheep (Matthew 7) was also a topos in inquisitorial discourse, admonishing faithful Christians that heretics similarly masked their evil habits with a disguise of piety and, more seriously, served Satan in leading the good astray and sabotaging their salvation. Both texts, and their supposed mandate for expulsion and violence, also reached the laity. In the Dominican Humbert of Romans’s instructions for inquisitorial sermons, he recommended that inquisitors cite the parable of the wheat and the tares in order to justify this work, and compare heretics to wolves disguised as sheep, in order to invert any conceptions that heretics were pious and Catholics unchristian. Bernard’s exemplum of the rams seized by butchers even recalled Humbert’s advice that preaching inquisitors inform listeners that heretics resembled the foxes who craftily stole their chickens at night, itself a homier version of the common ecclesiastical comparison of heretics to the little foxes who spoiled the vines (Song of Solomon 2:15). [82] Bernard Délicieux’s sermons, then, adopted exactly the themes and strategies that inquisition had long used publicly to justify itself and to cultivate the agreement that its tasks were holy works, the reconciliation of sinners, the establishment on earth of God’s own justice. While Bernard may have known Humbert’s preaching manual, it is more likely that this imagery had long borne such public, inquisitorial currency that it had entered the cultural vocabulary of heresy and orthodoxy, good and evil. [83] Jean de Picquigny’s deployment of such imagery in a letter to fellow laymen underscores this.

Here, as in other incidents of anti-inquisitorial violence, significant lay antipathy was the engine. Although the cleric Bernard presented this imagery, the congregation did its own work of glossing, determining that the “wolves” guised as sheep were not heretics, but instead inquisitors and their supporters. These events thus gesture toward the common inquisitorial problem of discernment: the constant, troubling need to discriminate true piety from false, alliances with God from those with the devil, orthodoxy from heresy. But discernment was not just the work of clerics. We see here the force, and some repercussions, of the laity’s ability to disagree with ecclesiastical and inquisitorial identifications of the truly wicked, the rightfully punished, and the “legitimate authority” holding power from God. Some citizens saw a world inverted in justice and authority. And the alchemy by which Catholics were transformed into heretics and divine justice into injustice constituted its own devilish crime. When inquisitors committed malfeasance, were so palpably unjust, and tormented Catholics, they not only abrogated their charge, but thence became “sinners,” “heretics,” and “devils.” [84] The grave sin of deviation, of departures from God’s right order, was then justifiably met with an earthly violence that both prepared for, and also mirrored, God’s own violent punishment of transgressors. As we have seen, this rhetoric and reasoning underlay the inquisitorial office itself and more specifically execution, which glanced backward to biblical precedents and forward to eternal damnation. Violence against inquisition could thus constitute a thoughtful, righteous usurpation by laypeople of the inquisitorial office and of its putatively divine mandate to correct the errant and to punish the incorrigible. Just as inquisition should not be reduced to medieval “cruelty,” impious hypocrisy, or political strategy, popular violence against inquisition was neither bound to an inescapable, monolithic mentality, nor was a mob’s irrational frenzy. In these acts, careful choices were made and rationales formed: violence responded not to the very fact of inquisition in all places and times, but to exactly those events by which the office appeared to violate, rather than to implement, God’s justice. They were the opposite of irrationality. [85]

Laypeople could invest what we may read as plain acts of protest with precisely the transcendently dazzling, anagogical meanings inquisitors had created. Violence against inquisition indeed echoes those polemical, popular, and even historiographical judgments, about which we spoke above, of inquisition’s corrupt and “irreligious” nature. And this lay violence, of course, did not follow the formalized tracks of inquisitorial procedure, meeting inquisition at the point where that office had abandoned the reintegration of the contrite for the just punishment of the irredeemable. But there is nevertheless perceptible agreement here with inquisition’s animating (and defensive) genius: that those who consciously abandoned God and his community had always been and ever would be punished by him, even with unimaginable pain, whether in the world beyond or here below. This substratal marriage of piety and violence in resistance to inquisition has significant consequences. If these acts indicate that some lay Christians accepted inquisition’s spiritual geography of pain and punishment, that accord troubles our assumptions about inquisition, “orthodoxy,” and “heterodoxy” in the later Middle Ages. It may blur an often sharp dichotomy formed in historiography between ecclesiastics and laity hopelessly divided by the different “cultural logics” that shaped and informed their respective religious mentalities. It disturbs a model of unfailing and monolithic distance and opposition, in which inquisition only challenged and obstructed “genuine” lay religious beliefs. [86]

More importantly, by foregrounding the struggle over discernment, this pious violence points us to different questions, at a deeper level of interrogation, about what “persecution” tells us. James Given has shown that the religious violence of inquisition was not a unidirectional imposition of power and force upon laypeople by a clerical elite holding all legal and political cards. Yet the dramatically compelling dust kicked up by violent conflicts between inquisitors and laity hides other fruit. I would like to emphasize not the fact of mere “resistance” within a very real political-social matrix, but rather the assumption by laypeople of inquisitors’ religious authority perceptible in these disparate events and its repercussions for our knowledge of how religious worlds that uniquely understand “politics” and “society” are themselves defined and redefined. The dynamic of this resistance was more complex than “communities versus inquisitors”: the operations and contestation lay at a lower point where diverse people struggled over discernment and divine justice. Inquisitors’ assertions that only they could distinguish good from evil interrelated importantly with their claims to earthly (and heavenly) authority. But the religious meanings for inquisition and its violence constructed by clerics burst through the walls with which they were ideally contained within that office. Geoffroy d’Ablis’s frail response to Bernard Délicieux’s incendiary charges about the Carcassonne reconciliation insisted that he and his successors alone enjoyed the “power of interpreting” inquisitorial decisions and texts. [87] This was wishful thinking. Some laypeople agreed that heresy inquisitions could be conducted justly, and that the perfectly sincere Christian could adopt violence as religious duty, but were in emphatic discord that inquisitors were the sole, inerrant agents of divine justice. The multiform religious violence associated with heresy inquisitions was not only multidirectional. Its acts were also cogent articulations by all speakers in a heated, expansive conversation about the precise ways in which humans and their actions here below were bound to the divine.

Not all incidents of violence against medieval inquisitions necessarily shared a single, identical character, and this is not an exhortation that “religion” supplant “politics” or “class” as an essentialist, universal interpretive lens. It is rather an appeal to avoid reductive explanations and to acknowledge both the multiplicity of factors that led to rocks upon an altar and the peculiar religious world within which rocks were thrown. Complaints about the condemnation of a pious neighbor could interrelate with wider conflicts, say, over episcopal and civic powers and privileges. [88] But as with inquisition itself, it is worthwhile to consider how a believer’s spiritual geography constituted another malleable and supple discourse from which acts could be born and with which they could be in negotiation. Within that geography, even the simplest and most transparent explanations for this violence—hate, vengeance, battles over influence and money—not only were unstable in themselves and in cooperation with other factors but also were colored by unfamiliar tints of meaning, embedded as they were in another, transcendent world with its distinctive character. Throwing rocks at an inquisitor and the flogging of a former heretic both occurred within a world that listed violence in the vocabulary with which God had ever spoken to those here below. In this divine-earthly grammar of pain were written permanent consequences, beyond terrestrial comprehension, for the sins of errant bodies and souls.

Caroline Walker Bynum has encouraged scholars to historicize exactly what shocks us. After the expansion of “religion” undertaken by Bynum and other historians of religious culture, we would not presume that, say, a starving saint did not mean what she said. We would not assume that she was only interested in social power, or that such a phenomenon is responsibly explained by comparisons to, or as a genealogical source of, modern anorexia. We would not discount a treatment of bodies unfamiliar to us as incompatible with belief. [89] We should similarly seek to contextualize the shocking subject of the religious character of persecution and violence in the Middle Ages, as we can open new vistas upon the medieval world by asking how they also reflected and formed a binding to the divine. To many lay Christians, perceived inquisitorial malversation, far from delegitimizing violence in God’s service, could instead prescribe it. Both inquisition and its resistance—however disparate in intention and justification they may initially appear; however much one may inspire sympathy more than another—may then equally disclose the peculiar ways in which a religious mentality undergirded (and mandated) persecution and repression in the particular world of the later Middle Ages. By acknowledging that framework, we may approach more closely both medieval persecutio and religio. [90]

Yet we cannot forget that “religion” is ever vulnerable and protean. Historians of religion practice not so much historicization as a strange kind of localization, a charting of the spiritual geography that is the true home of those they study, with its unique topography, culture, laws, and borders. But spiritual geographies, within which a diversity of acts take place and gain meaning, are not static and isolated. They are constructed by, and thence help to construct, their context; they are bound to “the world” as it stands in the peculiar present, but understand and shape it in particular ways. Historians should consider how the character and even the content of “religion,” and of specific religions, are themselves thoughtfully reshaped and redefined in response to particular “institutional conditions” and individual wishes. [91] It is exactly the coexistence of multiple and mutable imaginings of power and piety in certain circumstances that is significant. Religion’s persistent instability comes from that tectonic interpenetration of other world and real world, that pliancy of belief.

The final matter here is not, then, what we learn about the religious fabric of medieval persecution and how it was woven by churchmen and received by laypeople. Nor is it simply an exhortation for a historiography that looks past “power,” “politics,” and “society” to see also the force exerted upon their natures by belief. It is rather how the fashioning and refashioning of religious worlds is accomplished by historians as well as by our subjects. I appeal here for the contextualization of inquisition and its resistance, and of the marriage of violence and faith contracted by both. But that marriage, and inquisition’s traditional distance from sincere belief in historiography, well evoke a problem far surpassing the European Middle Ages: the tension between the premises and interests of a period’s students and their constructions of the past. Here we see the possible disjuncture between historians’ visions of “religion” and those held by the persons in the past we have called before ourselves for interrogation. While all manifestations of these divine bonds are vulnerable, some, from ecstasy to suicide, are at greater risk of appearing utterly irreligious, of suffering from and contributing to that disconnect. [92] Yet few historians would necessarily evacuate all religious meaning from even the most destructive acts performed today in the name of belief. To do otherwise for our subjects is perhaps to disclose our lingering place within a discourse of enlightenment and progress, and the persistence, however unintentional, in our work of a pristine “true” or structurally stable religion. We may show ourselves to be the heirs of a teleological, almost apocalyptic, narrative in which religious faith has consistently “improved” by becoming increasingly reasonable, tolerant, irenic, and humane.

Yet “religion” and religions display not stability or linearity but instead immediacy, fragility, the reflections of contexts and desires, the variable uses of bodies and spirits. Whatever their convictions, historians of all periods and places should beware the instinct that prompted a reviewer to breathe a sigh of frank relief at evidence of a tolerant Middle Ages, praising “a book that makes the Middle Ages look good.” [93] We should consider what investments we have in that image, what we are truly looking for when we look at the ways in which our subjects wove variegated bonds with variegated divines, or when we delicately avert our eyes from acts that seem too bizarre, too irrational, or even too cruel to be “religious.” Rather than the confident inquisitor, so sure of religion and master of its discernment, we must be the tremulous geographer, even as we discover that the world we have mapped is governed by a god who watches, torments, burns, and persecutes.

This essay originated in papers presented at the Midwest Medieval History Conference (2002) and at the 38th International Conference on Medieval Studies (2003). I am indebted to the following for the advice, questions, and challenges from which its evolution benefited: John Van Engen, Michael D. Bailey, John Mark Carroll, Daniel Hobbins, Charles H. Parker, Silvana R. Siddali, and the anonymous readers at the AHR. I am also grateful to John Contreni for initially suggesting publication.

Christine Caldwell Ames is an assistant professor of medieval history at Saint Louis University. She conducted her graduate work at Yale Divinity School and at the University of Notre Dame, where she received a PhD in history in 2002. She is currently completing a book on the formation of the religious world of heresy inquisitions in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

1. Andreas Zaupser, “Ode to the Inquisition,” quoted in Edward Peters, Inquisition (Berkeley, Calif., 1989), 186.

2. See Peters, Inquisition, 296–315 on modern “inquisitions.”

3. For an introduction to medieval inquisitions, see Peters, Inquisition, and Jean Guiraud, L’histoire de l’inquisition au moyen âge, 2 vols. (Paris, 1935–1938). Still extremely valuable, although thoroughly progressive, is Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 3 vols. (New York, 1887). It is inaccurate to refer to “the Inquisition” in the Middle Ages. By the end of the thirteenth century, it was increasingly patent that individual appointments of inquisitors (plural “inquisitions”) were being supplanted by an institution (the singular “inquisition”). On this evolution, see Richard Kieckhefer, “The Office of Inquisition and Medieval Heresy: The Transition from Personal to Institutional Jurisdiction,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 46 (January 1995): 36–61. Yet in the medieval period heresy inquisitions did not possess the structural and organizational cohesion and stability of the early modern Spanish, Roman, and Venetian Inquisitions. And while the formal strategy of inquisitio was not limited to the pursuit of heresy, in this article I use “inquisition” to denote solely an inquisitio hereticae pravitatis, or heresy inquisition.

4. The most notable, and threatening to Catholic hegemony, of these groups were the chastely dualist Cathars and the Waldensians, a lay movement of strict “apostolic” poverty and evangelism. A classic on the animating commonalities of heretical and orthodox lay groups is Herbert Grundmann, Religious Movements in the Middle Ages, Steven Rowan, trans. (Notre Dame, Ind., 1995). The literature on medieval heresies is copious. For orientation and bibliography, see Malcolm Lambert, Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation, 3d edn. (Oxford, 2002); Carl T. Berkhout and Jeffrey B. Russell, Medieval Heresies: A Bibliography 1960–1979 (Toronto, 1981). Note the recent and increasingly skeptical attention paid to medieval (and modern) constructions of “heresy” and of individual sects, as scholars have addressed the degree to which, and in what form, “heresy” existed independent of inquisitors’ constructions of it through media such as tracts and interrogations. According to this view, inquisitorial theory and practice constructed cohesive categories of heresy that could be imposed upon an individual’s testimony in an interrogation, or could redefine behavior. Mark Gregory Pegg, The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245–1246 (Princeton, N.J., 2001), challenges most particularly the “Cathar church.” See also Monique Zerner, ed. Inventer l’hérésie? Discours polémiques et pouvoirs avant l’inquisition (Nice, 1998); David Nirenberg, review of Inquisition and Medieval Society, by James B. Given, Speculum 75 (January 2000), 182–84; compare Given, Inquisition and Medieval Society, 213–15. For the early modern period, see Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, John and Anne Tedeschi, trans. (New York, 1982), and Ginzburg, The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, John and Anne Tedeschi, trans. (Baltimore, 1983).

5. Jason Horowitz, “Vatican Downsizes the Inquisition,” New York Times, June 16, 2004. Compare a judgment of a Christian scholar of heresy: “These injustices remain a terrible indictment of the wickedness of mankind as a whole and of the Christian church in particular. For the Church does claim to speak for Jesus Christ and therefore has a responsibility for charity that greatly exceeds that of other institutions.” Jeffrey Burton Russell, Dissent and Reform in the Early Middle Ages (Berkeley, Calif., 1965), 257.

6. Peters, Inquisition, 122–54.

7. John Paul II, “Letter to Cardinal Roger Etchegaray on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Volume ‘L’Inquisizione,'”

8. Peters, Inquisition, 155–88; see, for example, Maurice Bévenot, “The Inquisition and Its Antecedents, IV,” Heythrop Journal 8 (April 1967): 152–68; Lea, History of the Inquisition 1: 234.

9. According to the Encyclopédie’s article on inquisition, the office proved that “jamais la nature humaine n’est si avilie que quand l’ignorance est armée du pouvoir” (Human nature is never so degraded as when ignorance is armed with power). Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts, et des métiers, Tome 8 (1757; rpt. edn., Elmsford, N.Y., 1985), 773–76, quotation 775; Peters, Inquisition, 174–88, 247–48.

10. For example, Jean-Claude Schmitt, The Holy Greyhound: Guinefort, Healer of Children since the Thirteenth Century, Martin Thom, trans. (Cambridge, 1983); Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie, Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, Barbara Bray, trans. (New York, 1978).

11. Norman Cantor, Inventing the Middle Ages: The Lives, Works, and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century (New York, 1991), 354.

12. Paul Freedman and Gabrielle Spiegel, “Medievalisms Old and New: The Rediscovery of Alterity in North American Medieval Studies,” AHR 103 (June 1998), 699. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Alan Sheridan, trans. (New York, 1977).

13. R. I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950–1250 (Oxford, 1987), quotation 146; Scott L. Waugh and Peter D. Diehl, eds., Christendom and Its Discontents: Exclusion, Persecution, and Rebellion, 1000–1500 (Cambridge, 1996), 1–15; Jeffrey Richards, Sex, Dissidence, and Damnation: Minority Groups in the Middle Ages (London, 1991).

14. John Christian Laursen and Cary J. Nederman, eds., Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Toleration before the Enlightenment (Philadelphia, 1997); Cary J. Nederman, Worlds of Difference: European Discourses of Toleration, c.1100-c.1550 (University Park, Penn., 2000). For the standard genealogy of religious tolerance in Western Europe that places its birth firmly in the modern period, see Perez Zagorin, How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West (Princeton, N.J., 2003).

15. David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton, N.J., 1996); Philippa Maddern, Violence and Social Order: East Anglia 1422–1442 (Oxford, 1992).

16. As Richard Kieckhefer has said, “Invocation of Michel Foucault on the dynamics of power is rarely more appropriate than in study of inquisitorial repression.” Kieckhefer, review of Inquisition and Medieval Society: Power, Discipline, and Resistance in Languedoc, by James B. Given, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 53 (January 2002): 149. Moore, Formation of a Persecuting Society, 151; this position obviously resembles those arguments cited above about the constructions of “heresy.”

17. James B. Given, “Social Stress, Social Strain, and the Inquisitors of Medieval Languedoc,” in Waugh and Diehl, eds., Christendom and Its Discontents, 67, and Given, Inquisition and Medieval Society: Power, Discipline, and Resistance in Languedoc (Ithaca, N.Y., 1997); Andrew P. Roach, “Penance and the Making of the Inquisition in Languedoc,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 52 (July 2001): 409–33.

18. Given, Inquisition and Medieval Society; John H. Arnold, Inquisition and Power: Catharism and the Confessing Subject in Medieval Languedoc (Philadelphia, 2001); Carol Lansing, Power and Purity: Cathar Heresy in Medieval Italy (Oxford, 1998), quotation 5.

19. For a rare example of scholarship treating an inquisitor as pastor, see Jacques Paul, “La mentalité de l’inquisiteur chez Bernard Gui,” in Bernard Gui et son monde (Toulouse, 1981), 279–316. Walter Ullmann’s introduction to the 1963 abridgement of Henry Charles Lea’s Inquisition of the Middle Ages indeed argued that “No assessment of the Inquisition can be complete or balanced … if the peculiar conditions of the European Middle Ages are not properly evaluated and taken into account. Amongst these the complexion of medieval Christianity must rank high.” But for Ullmann, “medieval Christianity” denoted chiefly the (worldly) interests and status of the institution of the papacy. Walter Ullmann, “Historical Introduction,” in Henry Charles Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages: Its Organization and Operation (New York, 1963), 11–51, quotation 49.

20. Mark Gregory Pegg’s Corruption of Angels, a close study of the protracted inquisition conducted in Toulouse by the Dominicans Bernard de Caux and Jean de St. Pierre in 1245–1246, emphasizes how inquisitors’ avalanche of questions restructured the very patterns of thought and behavior in Languedoc by translating the vibrant minutiae of daily life (gestures, actions, relations, customs) into ordered categories of heresy. Dyan Elliott’s analysis of how “inquisitional culture” (an ecclesiastical dependence upon forms of proof such as investigation, interrogation, and confession) widely permeated ecclesiastical life in the later Middle Ages charts especially its restrictive and deleterious effects on women’s spirituality and religious status. Dyan Elliott, Proving Woman: Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton, N.J., 2004). Compare the discussion of the Cistercian order’s contributions to a “discourse of persecution” in Beverly Mayne Kienzle, Cistercians, Heresy, and Crusade in Occitania, 1145–1229: Preaching in the Lord’s Vineyard (Rochester, N.Y., 2001).

21. “In recent generations the attempt to come to terms with the persecuting mentality by associating it with the religious convictions which, it is universally acknowledged, characterized and inspired the noblest minds and the highest achievements of medieval civilization, has stifled curiosity and … prevented us from giving due consideration to some of the profoundest changes in the history of Western society.” Moore, Foundation of a Persecuting Society, 3.

22. Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley, Calif., 1987); Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (Cambridge, Mass., 1991); Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336 (New York, 1995). For analyses of changes in the field, see Ann Matter, “The Future of the Study of Medieval Christianity,” in John Van Engen, ed., The Past and Future of Medieval Studies (Notre Dame, Ind., 1994), 169–72; Freedman and Spiegel, “Medievalisms Old and New”; John Van Engen, “The Christian Middle Ages as an Historiographical Problem,” AHR 91 (June 1986): 519–52, and Van Engen, “The Future of Medieval Church History,” Church History 71 (September 2002): 492–522; Maureen C. Miller, “Religion Makes a Difference: Clerical and Lay Cultures in the Courts of Northern Italy, 1000–1300,” AHR 105 (October 2000): 1095–1130.

23. “And in the authoritarian and paranoid abreactions of an apocalyptically insecure leadership … threatened by the advance of a culture that clipped their wings, we find … the inquisitorial nightmare.” Richard Landes, “The Birth of Heresy: A Millenial Phenomenon,” Journal of Religious History 24 (February 2000): 41, citing Moore’s Formation of a Persecuting Society.

24. Histories of Dominic’s career and of the early Order of Preachers, however thorough, have come from within the order and thus are informed by its peculiar spirit; for example, William A. Hinnebusch, A History of the Dominican Order, 2 vols. (Staten Island, N.Y., 1966); M. H. Vicaire, Saint Dominic and His Times, Kathleen Pond, trans. (New York, 1964).

25. Gregory first commissioned Dominicans as inquisitors with the bull Ille humani generis (1231), sent to the Dominicans in the city of Regensburg, and repeated this act for northern and southern France, various Italian cities, and the Iberian kingdom of Aragon. Under Gregory’s eventual successor John XXII, Dominican inquisitorial activity was extended to Bohemia, Poland, and Greece. See Thomas Ripoll and Antonin Brémond, eds., Bullarium ordinis fratrum praedicatorum, 8 vols. (Paris, 1729–1740), 1: 38, 41, 45–46, 79, 81, 95; 2: 138–40. On this formative period of heresy inquisitions, see Peter Segl, ed., Die Anfänge der Inquisition im Mittelalter (Cologne, 1993); Lothar Kolmer, Ad capiendas vulpes: Die Ketzerbekämpfung in Südfrankreich in der ersten Hälfte des 13. Jahrhunderts und die Ausbildung des Inquisitionsverfahrens (Bonn, 1982); Henri Maisonneuve, Études sur les origines de l’inquisition (Paris, 1960).

26. Matthew 10:1–42; Luke 10:1–20. Nos considerantes (April 13, 1233), in Kurt Victor Selge, ed., Texte zur Inquisition (Gütersloh, 1967), 47. In the interest of economy I have omitted original quotations; unless otherwise noted all translations are my own.

27. There is extremely little evidence that the order’s leadership, or Dominicans generally, disapproved of their brother inquisitors’ pursuit of heretics. Inquisitorial activity could overlap with the life of the ordinary brethren in manifold ways, and critical references in the order’s legislation betray only concern that inquisitors could be lax in the order’s discipline, fail to attend provincial chapters, or traffic too often with money. B. M. Reichert, ed., Acta capitulorum generalium ordinis praedicatorum, 9 vols. (Rome, 1898–1904), 1: 181, 228, 273, 2: 130, 134, 141, 153, 158; Célestin Douais, ed., Les Frères Prêcheurs en Gascogne au XIIIme et au XIVme siècle (Paris, 1885), 63–65. For two rare cases of antipathy to inquisitors from within the order, see Alan Friedlander, ed., Processus Bernardi Delitiosi: The Trial of Fr. Bernard Délicieux, 3 September-8 December 1319 (Philadelphia, 1996), 159, 163–65, 326, 331; Célestin Douais, ed., Documents pour servir à l’histoire de l’inquisition dans le Languedoc, 2 vols. (Paris, 1900), 2: 304–13; Douais, Les Frères Prêcheurs en Gascogne, 377.

28. Vladimir J. Koudelka, ed., Monumenta diplomatica sancti Dominici (Rome, 1966), 16–18; Constantine of Orvieto, Legenda sancti Dominici, H. C. Scheeben, ed., in Monumenta historica sancti patris nostri Dominici, fasc. 2 (Rome, 1935), 321–22. See the following debate on Dominic as inquisitor: Marie-Humbert Vicaire, “Saint Dominique et les inquisiteurs,” Annales du Midi 79 (1967): 173–94, and Vicaire, “Notes sur la mentalité de saint Dominique,” Annales du Midi 80 (1968): 131–36; Christine Thouzellier, “L’inquisitio et saint Dominique,” Annales du Midi 80 (1968): 121–30, and Thouzellier, “Réponse au R. P. Vicaire,” Annales du Midi 80 (1968): 137–38.

29. On the Roman church’s program of pastoral discipline and on the requirement of yearly confession, see Peter Biller and A. J. Minnis, eds., Handling Sin: Confession in the Middle Ages (Rochester, N.Y., 1998); Mary C. Mansfield, The Humiliation of Sinners: Public Penance in Thirteenth-Century France (Ithaca, N.Y., 1995); Jean Delumeau, L’aveu et le pardon: Les difficultés de la confession XIIIe–XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1990), and Delumeau, Sin and Fear: The Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture, 13th–18th Centuries, Eric Nicholson, trans. (New York, 1990); Nicole Bériou, “Autour de Latran IV (1215): La naissance de la confession moderne et sa diffusion,” in Pratiques de la confession: Des Pères du desert à Vatican II (Paris, 1983), 73–92; Thomas N. Tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation (Princeton, N.J., 1977).

30. This is inspired by Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore, 1993), 115–21, 125–67.

31. Compare the “Christian anthropology” of the Cluniac abbot Peter the Venerable posited in Dominique Iogna-Prat, Order and Exclusion: Cluny and Christendom Face Heresy, Judaism, and Islam, 1000–1150, Graham Robert Edwards, trans. (Ithaca, N.Y., 2002).

32. Humbert of Romans, De eruditione predicatorum, in Marguerin de la Bigne, ed., Maxima bibliotheca veterum patrum, 28 vols. (Lyon, 1677), 25: 556. Raymond of Peñafort, Summa de iure canonico, Summa de paenitentia, Summa de matrimonio, Javier Ochoa Sanz and Luis Diez Garcia, eds., 3 vols. Tome B: Summa de paenitentia (Rome, 1976), 318; Paul Meyer, ed., “Le Débat d’Izarn et de Sicart de Figueiras,” Annuaire-bulletin de la société de l’histoire de France 16 (1879): 254, 273.

33. Raymond of Peñafort, Summa de paenitentia, 280, 318–327. The inquisitors’ manual was initially intended for inquisitors in Aragon but circulated also among those in Languedoc. Célestin Douais, ed., “Saint Raymond de Peñafort et les hérétiques: Directoire à l’usage des inquisiteurs Aragonais” [herafter Directoire à l’usage des inquisiteurs Aragonais], Le Moyen âge 12 (1899): 305–315; see also Antoine Dondaine, “Le manuel de l’inquisiteur (1230–1330),” Archivum fratrum praedicatorum 17 (1947): 96–97.

34. Raymond of Peñafort, Summa de paenitentia, 802; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, Collection Doat (hereafter, Doat) 22, fols. 39r–40r.

35. The phrase is originally from 1 Timothy 1: 5. For a few of the many examples in trial transcripts, see Doat 21, fol. 321v; Doat 28, fols. 68v, 72v; Douais, Documents, 2: 5, 9, 15, 18, 52, 68, 81, 87.

36. Compare Arnold, Inquisition and Power, esp. 90–110; Elliott, Proving Woman, 9–43. This conception that reintegration through atonement was spiritually necessary, that confession was its initial step, plus the assurance through mala fama that those who appeared before inquisitors were guilty, supported the use of torture, which Pope Innocent IV authorized for heresy inquisitions in Ad extirpanda (1252). See Selge, Texte zur Inquisition, 77; Edward Peters, Torture, 2d edn. (Philadelphia, 1996), especially 40–73; Mario Sbriccoli, “‘Tormentum idest torquere mentem’: Processo inquisitorio e interrogatorio per tortura nell’Italia communale,” in Jean-Claude Marie Vigueur and Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, eds., La parola all’accusato (Palermo, 1991), 17–32.

37. Raymond of Peñafort, Summa de penitentia, 835–39; Annette Pales-Gobilliard, “Les pénalités inquisitoriales au XIVe siècle,” in Crises et réformes dans l’église de la réforme grégorienne à la préréforme, Actes du 115e congrès national des sociétés savantes, Avignon, 1990: Église au moyen âge (Paris, 1991), 143–54.

38. Bernard Gui, Practica inquisitionis hereticae pravitatis, Célestin Douais, ed. (Paris, 1886), 162; “Directoire à l’usage des inquisiteurs Aragonais,” 324–25; Doctrina de modo procedendi contra hereticos, in Edmond Martène and Ursin Durand, eds., Thesaurus novus anecdotorum, 5 vols. (Paris, 1717), 5: 1803–1804; the anonymous manual in Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, Fonds Latin 3978, fols. 26v, 31r, 34r.

39. Humbert of Romans, Expositio in constitutiones, in J. J. Berthier, ed., Opera de vita regulari, 2 vols. (1889; rpt. edn., Turin, 1956), 2: 145–48; Reichert, Acta capitulorum generalium, 1: 8, 17, 24, 139, 220, 230, 241, 246–47, 259, 270, 311; 2: 36, 42–43, 140, 159.

40. “Directoire à l’usage des inquisiteurs Aragonais,” 317; Doctrina de modo procedendi contra hereticos, 1798; Gui, Practica inquisitionis, 101.

41. Doat 27, fols. 154r–154v. As Humbert of Romans asked, “Since in fact the sinner must endure either an eternal suffering or a present one, who, thinking about the conditions in which these sufferings take place, does not prefer to undergo it here below rather than there, unless he is crazy?” Humbert of Romans, Le Don de crainte ou l’Abondance des exemples, Christine Boyer, ed. and trans. (Lyon, 2003), 83.

42. The case of monks, nuns, and priests found guilty of heresy and sentenced to imprisonment within convents illustrates the conflation of monastic and inquisitorial penances; for instance, Doat 27, fols. 160v, 154r-154v; Douais, Documents, 2: 31. On the early history of imprisonment, see Jean Dunbabin, Captivity and Imprisonment in Medieval Europe 1000–1300 (New York, 2002); Edward Peters, “Prison Before the Prison: The Ancient and Medieval Worlds,” in Norval Morris and David J. Rothman, eds., The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society (New York, 1995), 26–32; Nicole Castan, “La préhistoire de la prison,” in Jean-Guy Petit, ed., Histoire des galères, bagues et prisons XIIIe–XXe siècles (Toulouse, 1991), 26–27.

43. Raymond of Peñafort, Summa de paenitentia, 826–27; Gui, Practica inquisitionis, 236–37. Fourth Lateran’s canon 21, Omnis utriusque sexus, which mandated yearly confession for all Christians, shared this vision of priest as “doctor of souls”: Antonius Garcia y Garcia, ed., Constitutiones Concilii quarti Lateranensis una cum commentariis glossatorum (Vatican City, 1981), 68.

44. Others have argued that given inquisition’s repressive character, any resemblances are merely cosmetic: Given, Inquisition and Medieval Society, 78–84; Elie Griffe, Le Languedoc cathare et l’inquisition, 1229–1329 (Paris, 1980), 14–34; Annie Cazenave, “Aveu et contrition: Manuels de confesseurs et interrogatoires d’inquisition en Languedoc et en Catalogne (XIII–XIVe siècles),” in Actes du 99e congrès national des sociétés savantes, Besançon, 1974. Philologie et histoire 1 (Paris, 1977): 333–52; Cyrille Vogel, “Le pèlerinage penitentiel,” Revue des sciences religieuses 38 (1964): 129, 135.

45. Humbert of Romans, De eruditione predicatorum, 555.

46. This penalty was established in the Iberian kingdom of Aragon in as early as 1197, but the second quarter of the thirteenth century witnessed its increasing commonness throughout the continent. On this legislation, see Charles Moeller, “Le bucher et les auto-da-fé de l’inquisition depuis le moyen âge,” Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 14 (1913): 722–26; Maisonneuve, Études, 243–57. Yves Dossat has estimated that execution comprised only about 1 percent of sentences in the the first century of inquisition: Yves Dossat, “Le ‘bucher de Montségur’ et les buchers de l’inquisition,” in Le crédo, la morale, et l’inquisition (Toulouse, 1971), 371. The low number can be explained by this penitential schema that prized inclusion rather than exclusion, and by the fact that most infractions that called persons before inquisitors were mild. Apologists for inquisition, eager to rend inquisitors in procedure and in culpability from the death penalty, have noted not only that executions were performed by the secular arm but also that an inquisitor could formally appeal to that authority for mercy. However, this appeal was not explicitly discussed in inquisitorial manuals nor necessarily made in practice; for example, Gui, Practica inquisitionis, 131, 136, 143–44; Annette Pales-Gobilliard, ed., Le livre des sentences de l’inquisiteur Bernard Gui 1308–1323, 2 vols. (Paris, 2002), 1: 542.

47. Humbert of Romans, De eruditione predicatorum, 555; Anselm of Alexandria, Tractatus de hereticis, in Antoine Dondaine, “La hiérarchie cathare en Italie, II: Le Tractatus de hereticis d’Anselme d’Alexandrie O.P.,” Archivum fratrum praedicatorum 20 (1950): 320; Raynier Sacconi, Summa de catharis, in François Sanjek, “Raynerius Sacconi O. P. Summa de Catharis,” Archivum fratrum praedicatorum 44 (1974): 60; Moneta of Cremona, Adversus Catharos et Valdenses libri quinque, Thomas Augustinus Ricchini, ed. (1743; rpt. edn., Ridgewood, N.J., 1964), 508–11. For testimony about opposition to the death penalty, see, for example, statements made in 1247 about Peire Garcias: Doat 22, fols. 94v, 98r, 101r; Douais, Documents, 2: 113; Pegg, Corruption of Angels, 52–56.

48. References in inquisitorial literature included the stories of Moses and the idolaters (Exodus 32:28); Phineas (Numbers 25:6–18); Matthathias (1 Maccabees 2:24–26); Korah, Dathan, and Abiron (Numbers 16:1–50); Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1–11). See Gregory IX, Vox in Rama (1232), Declinante (1232), Olim intellecto (1234), in Ripoll and Brémond, Bullarium ordinis praedicatorum, 1: 38, 52–54, 66–67; Moneta of Cremona, Adversus Catharos et Valdenses, 508–46; Carola Hoécker, ed., Disputatio inter catholicum et patarinum hereticum (Florence, 2001), 58–63.

49. On this genre, see Jacques Berlioz and Marie-Anne Polo de Beaulieu, Les exempla médiévaux: Nouvelles perspectives (Paris, 1998); Claude Bremond, Jacques Le Goff, and Jean-Claude Schmitt, L’Exemplum (Turnhout, 1982); J. Th. Welter, L’Exemplum dans la littérature religieuse et didactique du Moyen âge (1927; rpt. edn., Geneva, 1973). Étienne de Bourbon, Tractatus de diversiis materiis predicabilibus, Jacques Berlioz and Jean-Luc Eichenlaub, eds. (Turnhout, 2002), 114–15. Jean Gobi, La Scala coeli de Jean Gobi, Marie-Anne Polo de Beaulieu, ed. (Paris, 1991), 319–20, 408; see also Marie-Anne Polo de Beaulieu, Éducation, prédication et cultures au moyen âge: Essais sur Jean Gobi le jeune (Lyon, 1999). Jean Gobi the younger composed his collection circa 1330 as a brother at the Dominican house of St. Maximin; his uncle, Jean Gobi the elder, had succeeded the inquisitor Jean Vigouroux as prior there in 1304. Bernard Gui, De fundatione et prioribus conventuum provinciarum Tolosanae et Provinciae ordinis praedicatorum, P. A. Amargier, ed. (Rome, 1961), 277; Polo de Beaulieu, “Introduction” to Scala coeli, 25–26.

50. Gui, Practica inquisitionis, 351. See the exempla on hell in Humbert of Romans, Le Don de crainte, 55–86; and Étienne de Bourbon, Tractatus de diversiis materiis predicabilibus, 66–139. Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, Arthur Goldhammer, trans. (Chicago, 1984), especially 256–78, 310–18; Marie-Anne Polo de Beaulieu, “Recueils d’exempla méridionaux et culte des ames du Purgatoire,” in La papauté d’Avignon et le Languedoc, 1316–1342 (Toulouse, 1991), 257–78. The linking of inquisitorial condemnation and divine damnation appears in many sources; for example, “Directoire à l’usage des inquisiteurs Aragonais,” 320; Guillaume Pelhisson, Chronique, 1229–1244, Jean Duvernoy, ed. (Paris, 1994), 108.

51. Jean-Louis Biget, “Un procès d’Inquisition à Albi en 1300,” in Le Crédo, la morale, et l’inquisition, 288; Jean-Louis Bruges, “L’inquisition et les Frères Prêcheurs,” Documents pour servir à l’histoire de l’ordre de Saint-Dominique en France 9 (1973): 27.

52. Evidence that inquisitors sought reintegration and inclusion also comes from the requests made, and granted, to abandon humiliating punishments that hurt one’s community standing, and to the public warnings that those mocking or ostracizing penitents would be punished as persons impeding the work of inquisition: Doat 27, fols. 107v, 121r, 135v, 138r, 149r, 155r–155v, 160v; Doat 28, fol. 7r; Gui, Practica inquisitionis, 60–61, 89, 100–01.

53. We might say that “persecution” was morally neutral, its culpability depending upon the identity of its actors and targets. Guillaume Pelhisson lamented attacks upon inquisitors, the righteous “persecutors of heretics” (Chronique, 48). To inquisitors, ecclesiastical persecution of a group discounted its claims to legitimacy and holiness. Interrogations commonly asked whether a suspect believed he could be saved in a heretical sect despite his knowledge that the church “persecuted” them; for example, Doat 32, fols. 114r, 116v; “Directoire à l’usage des inquisiteurs Aragonais,” 322 (where execution was expressly linked to this “persecution”). On the other hand, Bernard Gui referred to Bernard Délicieux’s movement (see below) as a “persecution of inquisitors.” Gui, De fundatione, 204. The quality of “persecution,” then, was for these medieval ecclesiastics another matter for discernment, the authority to define, which they also possessed.

54. A forceful expression of the quantitative terms and the starkness of the tolerance/intolerance debate is found at the conclusion of Cary J. Nederman, review of Texts and the Repression of Medieval Heresy, ed. by Caterina Bruschi and Peter Biller, Speculum 79 (October 2004): 1047–1048.

55. And thus religio is related etymologically and in spirit and meaning to obligatio. P. G. W. Glare, ed., The Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford, 1982), 1605–1606; Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, eds., A Latin Dictionary (Oxford, 1879), 1556; J. F. Niermeyer, ed., Mediae latinitatis lexicon minus, J. W. J. Burgers, rev. edn. (Leiden, 2002), 1182. Peter Biller, “Words and the Medieval Notion of ‘Religion,'” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 36 (July 1985): 351–69, responding to John Bossy, “Some Elementary Forms of Durkheim,” Past and Present (May 1982): 3–18, sketches the numerous ways in which the medieval use of religio transcended monasticism and approached the “system” presented by Bossy as an early modern development. See also Biller, “Popular Religion in the Central and Middle Ages,” in Michael Bentley, ed., Companion to Historiography (London, 1997), 221–46.

56. Jonathan Z. Smith, “Religion, Religions, Religious,” in M. C. Taylor, ed., Critical Terms for Religious Studies (Chicago, 1998), 269–84. Philippe Buc has observed the pained cleaving of ritual and religion in the Reformation’s aftermath, from which was born the influential concept of religious ritual as chiefly a supremely functional integrator of society: Philippe Buc, The Dangers of Ritual: Between Early Medieval Texts and Social Scientific Theory (Princeton, N.J., 2001), 164–202. Talal Asad critiques attempts to form a universalized definition of religion as occluding the deep interpenetration of religious practices and their status with “historically distinctive disciplines and forces.” Asad, Genealogies of Religion, 27–54, quotation 54.

57. Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Karen E. Fields, trans. (New York, 1995): 22; Jonathan Z. Smith, Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (Chicago, 1982): xi; and Smith, “Religion, Religions, Religious,” 281.

58. Hans G. Kippenberg, Discovering Religious History in the Modern Age, Barbara Harshav, trans. (Princeton, N.J., 2002). On the field-wide incorporation of belief into the history of religion, see Thomas Kselman, ed., Belief in History: Innovative Approaches to European and American Religion (Notre Dame, Ind., 1991).

59. This is the problem raised by Bossy, “Some Elementary Forms,” and taken up by Biller, “Words.” See also Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History, Tom Conley, trans. (New York, 1988), 137–41, quotation 138.

60. See the table in Given, Inquisition and Medieval Society, 113–15 and his discussion 91–140.

61. Given has characterized such violence against inquisition as “the political practices … of subordinated groups within society,” which were in turn part of a dialectical process of political power. Given, Inquisition and Medieval Society, 91.

62. The Albi incident took place on June 15, 1234; after the inquisitor Arnaud Cathala ordered the exhumation and postmortem burning of a supposed heretic, he was seized and beaten by a large crowd. “Récit des troubles d’Albi,” in Pelhisson, Chronique, 112–23. The Toulouse uprising against the inquisitor Guillaume Arnaud led to not only his expulsion but also the violent ejection of the entire Dominican community from the town. Pelhisson, Chronique; Gui, De fundatione, 49–50. The mob violence and civil strife in Narbonne, which began in 1234 after the Dominican inquisitor known only as Friar Ferrier attempted to arrest a suspect, lasted until 1236 and included the sacking of the Dominican house. Charles Delpoux, “L’inquisition à Narbonne,” Cahiers d’études Cathares, 2d ser., 84 (1979), 29–37; Richard Wilder Emery, Heresy and Inquisition in Narbonne (New York, 1941); Guiraud, Histoire de l’inquisition, 2: 65–73.

63. While Ullmann credited this rarity of “highly dangerous” resistance to the fact that “inquisitors were so elusive … they had an almost perfect organization,” this assertion of their sophistication and skill is untenable. Ullmann, “Historical Introduction,” 33.

64. On Jean Galand and the 1284 plot, see Jean-Marie Vidal, Un inquisiteur jugé par ses ‘victimes’: Jean Galand et les carcassonnais (1285–1286) (Paris, 1903); Michèle Lebois, “Le complot des Carcassonnais contre l’inquisition (1283–1285),” in Carcassonne et sa région (Montpellier, 1970), 159–63; Guiraud, Histoire de l’inquisition, 2: 303–33; Georgene W. Davis, ed., The Inquisition at Albi, 1299–1300: Text of Register and Analysis (New York, 1948), 51–55; Lea, History of the Inquisition, 2: 59–60; Alan Friedlander, The Hammer of the Inquisitors: Brother Bernard Délicieux and the Struggle against the Inquisition in Fourteenth-Century France (Leiden, 2000), 16–18. Vidal was skeptical about the reality of this plot; Lebois and Friedlander argue for its existence.

65. The Latin text of the appeal is in Vidal, Un inquisiteur, 39–43. It is difficult to maintain a dual lens of skepticism in interpreting these events: that is, to argue simultaneously that both inquisitors and townspeople misled, the former by protesting that they pursued genuine heretics rather than abused their offices for the ends of power and wealth, and the latter by protesting here that they were pious Catholics.

66. Gui, De fundatione, 103. Bernard Gui (as prior of Carcassonne) and Foulques de Saint-Georges (as prior of Albi) served as witnesses; Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 313–18. This transcript of Bernard Délicieux’s sensational trial in 1319 for a rash of charges that included impeding and defaming the inquisition, a failed plot to strip King Philip IV of his authority over Carcassonne, and the murder of Pope Benedict XI through poison and black magic is a key source on the protracted uprising.

67. The record of these trials, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, Fonds Latin 11847, has been edited: Davis, Inquisition at Albi. For background and narrative on the resistance, see Friedlander, “Introduction,” to Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 1–52; Friedlander, The Hammer of the Inquisitors; and Friedlander, “Bernard Délicieux, le ‘marteau des inquisiteurs,'” Heresis 34 (2001): 9–34; Jean-Louis Biget, “Autour de Bernard Délicieux: Franciscanisme et société en Languedoc entre 1295 et 1330,” Revue d’histoire de l’église de France 70 (1984): 75–93; Yves Dossat, “Les origines de la querelle entre Prêcheurs et Mineurs provençaux: Bernard Délicieux,” in Franciscains d’Oc (Toulouse, 1975), 315–54; Michel de Dmitrewski, “Fr. Bernard Délicieux, O.F.M.: Sa lutte contre l’inquisition de Carcassonne et d’Albi, son procès, 1297–1319,” Archivum franciscanum historicum 17 (1924): 183–218, 313–37, 457–88; 18 (1925): 3–32; Barthéemy Hauréau, Bernard Délicieux et l’inquisition albigeoise (1300–1320) (Paris, 1877); Lea, History of the Inquisition, 2: 61–103.

68. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 250–51; for the dating of this incident, Dossat, “Les origines de la querelle,” 325–26, and Dmitrewski, “Fr. Bernard Délicieux,” 194.

69. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 196–97.

70. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 68, 78–79, 245. Bernard defended himself at his trial by pleading that this was the mandated lectionary text; Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 84. August 4 in 1303 was the tenth Sunday in Pentecost; Adriano Cappelli, Cronologia, Cronografia e Calendario perpetuo (Milan, 1930), 68–69. When mass readings became standardized in 1570, Luke 19:41–47 was prescribed for the ninth Sunday after Pentecost. It is difficult then to tell if later memory was faulty about precisely what week the sermon took place or if local custom fixed the readings differently. Regardless, whether resulting from lectionary or from choice, the pericope was an apt homiletic theme. While it superficially alluded to the townspeople’s ignorance about the reconciliation in 1299, it also warned of divine retribution through earthly violence.

71. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 252, 281.

72. Geoffroy’s defensive explanation to the citizens, issued on August 10, 1303, is contained in Doat 34, fols. 21r–24v. On this inquisitor, see Charles Peytavie, “L’inquisition de Carcassonne: Geoffroy d’Ablis (1303–1316), le Mal contre le mal,” in Albaret, Les inquisiteurs, 89–99, and Annette Pales-Gobilliard, ed., L’inquisiteur Geoffroy d’Ablis et les cathares du comté de Foix (1308–1309) (Paris, 1984). The blanket inculpation as heretics was not just a matter of pride. It would mean that any persons found guilty of heresy in the future would be branded as relapsed and thus liable for the death penalty. As Bernard Délicieux reputedly said in the St. Vincent sermon, after the agreement, “nothing remains to the people of this town except fire.” Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 69, 245.

73. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 70, 231, 296, 301; Gui, De fundatione, 102–103; Given, Inquisition and Medieval Society, 134.

74. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 94, 96, 165, 189. It was discussed at the trial whether the charges of notorious wickedness were mere slander invented by Bernard Délicieux; regardless, they may have been believed by those who embraced violence.

75. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 201, 303, 114. Similarly, “no Christian, however much a Catholic … could remain secure” if those inquisitors and the Dominicans generally had jurisdiction over the office. Bernard provocatively claimed that if Peter and Paul themselves appeared before inquisitors they would be found guilty of heresy. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 164, 174, 207. Decatholicare thus echoed hereticare, the procedure by which Cathars reputedly transformed a fellow-traveler credens into an elite perfectus. See, for example, the lengthy consultation in Doat 32, fols. 164r–240r, on a series of procedures conducted in 1330 against several dead putative heretics, which demonstrates the continuing force in inquisitorial imagination of this supposed rite.

76. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 72.

77. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 78–79, 195; for parallels in other exempla, see Frederic C. Tubach, Index exemplorum: A Handbook of Medieval Religious Tales (Helsinki, 1969), 404.

78. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 195, 296. See also the testimony of Guilhelmus Rabaudi, “the wicked grasses were to be rooted out from the garden by the good gardener, so that they could not suffocate the good grasses,” 238; and of Bernard Trevas, “the wicked grasses were to be rooted out by the good gardener, and he called the wicked grasses certain men from the bourg of Carcassonne who commonly were thought to support the office of inquisition,” 288.

79. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 292.

80. Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 281–82.

81. Innocent III, Vergentis in senium, in E. Friedberg, ed., Corpus iuris canonici, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1879–1881), 2: 782–83.

82. Humbert of Romans, De eruditione predicatorum, 554–55. Inquisitorial sources indicate that some preachers indeed followed Humbert’s advice and used this biblical imagery in practice; see, for example, Doat 28, fol. 193v.

83. Friedlander refers to these references to evil grasses as “new, strange themes” in Bernard’s preaching; they were neither new nor strange to inquisitors and those who heard their sermons. Friedlander, Hammer of the Inquisitors, 127. Bernard Délicieux appears to have been quite aware of their inquisitorial use; during his trial he argued unpersuasively that “by ‘evil grasses’ he meant heretics, whom he encouraged to be exterminated if they were discovered.” Friedlander, Processus Bernardi Delitiosi, 195.

84. Lansing interprets another example of such naming, during the anti-inquisitorial resistance in Bologna in 1299, as rhetorical; it resulted from laypeople’s recognition of “the political uses of heresy charges.” Lansing, Power and Purity, 15.

85. Nirenberg, Communities of Violence, 46–48. This dynamic is, then, analogous to Natalie Zemon Davis’s argument that the putative chaos and unthinking frenzy of Protestant and Catholic rioters in early modern France was, in fact, orderly violence that sought to defend doctrine and to supply, or correct, absent or failed mechanisms of justice. Faced with the perceived indolence or impotence of God’s appointed deputies (magistrates, clergy) in the wake of profound religious deviation, men and women assumed for themselves the duty of exercising here below God’s punishment through pain and death, rendering their violence not “pathological” and “mindless” but rather structured and perceived as legitimate. Natalie Zemon Davis, “The Rites of Violence,” in Zemon Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modern France: Eight Essays (Stanford, Calif., 1975), 152–87.

86. Schmitt, Holy Greyhound, and Schmitt, “Religion, Folklore, and Society in the Medieval West,” in Lester K. Little and Barbara H. Rosenwein, eds., Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings (Oxford, 1998), 376–87, quotation 377, the latter in response to Van Engen, “Christian Middle Ages.” Maureen Miller, while defending and limning the distinctive contours of clerical culture, remarks that this blunt opposition masks diversity and flattens out complexity; Miller, “Religion Makes a Difference,” 1095–1096. On the evolution of lay sentiment towards the prosecution of heresy, see Peter D. Diehl, “Overcoming Reluctance to Prosecute Heresy in Thirteenth-Century Italy,” in Waugh and Diehl, Christendom and Its Discontents, 47–66.

87. Doat 34, fols. 24r–24v.

88 Bernard de Castanet, the bishop of Albi, was unpopular not only because of his zealous support of inquisitions but also because of disputes over episcopal privileges; the uprising in Narbonne was bound up with conflicts between archbishop Pierre Amiel and the bourg, and between the bourg and the cité.

89. Caroline Walker Bynum, “Wonder,” AHR 102 (February 1997): 1–26.

90. For an attempt to contextualize and to locate within belief another intersection of violence and religion, see Brad S. Gregory, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, Mass., 1999).

91. Asad, Genealogies of Religion, 147.

92. Another disturbingly cogent example from the medieval period is the collective suicide and murder (including infanticide) carried out by Rhineland Jewish communities in 1096, when they were threatened with forced conversion to Christianity by marauding bands inflamed by crusading rhetoric. While social strain or even hysteria may seem the most comprehensible explanations for this horrific violence, medieval Jewish chroniclers defined it specifically in religious terms. It was the choice of death rather than disloyalty to God, and hence was a “sanctification of the divine name.” See Robert Chazan, European Jewry and the First Crusade (Berkeley, Calif., 1987). Jonathan Smith has noticed the recent adoption of the derogatory “cult,” which serves as both a disciplinary boundary and a protector of “real” religion: Smith, Imagining Religion, 110.

93. Gerald Christianson, review of Worlds of Difference: European Discourses of Toleration, c.1100-c.1550, ed. by Cary J. Nederman, Church History 71 (September 2002), 651.